Chapter 7 : messy as
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Love for Gina, Annie, and Melissa for being the first ones to read the product of my crazy.
“Corinna, there’s a mistake.”
Gemma made quite the picturesque baker. Her hair was in a now disheveled bun, her face was flecked with flour, and her apron, somehow, had been witness to an explosion of food colouring.
All this before even reading the recipe.
Oliver and I, seated at the little table the house-elves seemed to keep for their few visitors, were drinking tea and chatting about Kenmare’s chances this year. “What is it now, Gemma?” I had to twist my body in the tiny chair to see her at some cluttered little counter.
“There’s no recipe for the macarons.” She jabbed the relevant page in the recipe book I’d lent her for just this occasion. “There’s one for the meringue and one for the ganache but nothing for the macarons.”
Oliver, who didn’t understand anything of this conversation, kept on drinking his tea and staring into space. I thought he was either strategising for his next match against Ravenclaw or trying to figure out an exit strategy in case his girlfriend tried to kill him. Again.
I, meanwhile, stifled my laughter. “A recipe for the meringue and one for the ganache, you said?”
“But none for the macarons!” she confirmed. “What, am I supposed to make a cookie from the frosting? Is there something I’m missing here, Corinna? Isn’t this a mistake?”
“I think it’s a mistake,” grumbled Oliver. He was not sold on the strategy, convinced that this was nothing but a way for his girlfriend to try to poison him. Again.
“Shut up, you. And Gemma,” I added, none too kindly, “the meringue is the macaron. Make the meringue, make the macaron. Read the recipe, sweetheart.”
“Don’t call me sweetheart, bitch,” she sniffed. However, she did seem to reread the recipe, for which I was grateful. Even if I didn’t believe she tried to kill her boyfriend, I didn’t want her accidentally killing him, either.
I’d purposefully given her an extremely difficult recipe–French lemon macarons–as punishment for baking without me and as a play on the raspberry linzer macaroons she tried to steal. So clever of me, I know.
Having set her on the correct path once again, I twisted back around to see that Oliver was still mouthing to himself. When he noticed that I was facing him again, he hissed, “What the hell kind of idea is this?”
“She’s tried to poison me via baked–”
“Would you relax? The only thing she’s definitely guilty of is being an awful baker.”
“What was that, Corinna?” she called out over the sound of clattering pans.
“Oliver, what’d that bitch say?”
I could feel her glower boring into my head. But Oliver was grinning, and while it wasn’t up to par to Cedric’s, it wasn’t something to shake your head at, either.
Smiling to myself, I turned back around to make sure she’d at least Summoned the right utensils and such.
“Where’s the zester?”
“The thing you need to get the lemon zest.”
“What’s lemon zest?”
This was going to be a very long night.
A very long night, it happened, during which Oliver and I, left mostly to ourselves as Gemma blundered through my grandmother’s house-elf’s treasured recipe with her wand and an army-grade mixer, really connected.
“Why do you love Gemma so much?”
“I could ask you the same question.”
“I don’t love her love her. She’s my best friend.”
“She’s my girlfriend.”
“You dumped her.”
“You think she’s mad.”
“That’s because it’s true, and you know it.”
“Has it ever occurred to you,” he said, as brazenly blasé as ever, “that maybe I love her because she’s mad?”
“It crossed my mind, yes.” I took a sip of tea. “Then I decided that you weren’t as idiotic as that.”
“Maybe I am.”
“Oh, no. Not a question of maybe. You are as idiotic as that.”
“Gemma, go back to grinding the almonds.”
“I’m not grinding any more fucking almonds.”
“Gemma, do it for me if you won’t do it for her. Please.”
“Fine. Only because you asked. Politely.” I could almost feel the force of her simper. “Anything for you, Oliver, you manipulative idiot.”
I gestured to her. “You see? She’s ins–”
“I can hear you!”
“Here’s a question for you,” said Oliver a little later. The tea was long gone, but the house-elves brought us a pitcher of warm pumpkin juice, which I refused to touch. “You like baking, right?”
“And you’re good at it?”
“Better than certain people.”
“Shove off, Corinna, you heinous bitch. ”
“How’d you get into it?” Oliver seemed to like the juice. “I don’t think it’s something you’d really get to cultivate at Hogwarts, right?”
“Are we at that point already?” I asked with a snort. Mostly because I could hear Gemma’s attempts to whisk together the lemon zest, the ground almonds, and the powdered sugar. “Exchanging stories about our childhood which have strange relevance to our current situation?”
“You don’t think we are?”
“Well, it’s not that I don’t think we are,” I said. “It’s more that… I did sort of hope we were above that.”
He shook his head. “Corinna, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that there is no escaping certain stages in a friendship. Including the exchanging of relevant childhood stories.”
I was afraid of that.
“What, do you feel uncomfortable starting it off?”
“A little, yeah, actually. It’s just so… unnecessary. Uncalled for.”
“Who said it was anything else? It’s just a way to further our connection, don’t you know.” He took another long draught from his mug and then started. “I’ll start us off.”
“Start what off, now?”
“Start our bonding session!”
“You’re bonding now? Why?”
“Gemma, mind the mixer!”
She swore for a good fifteen seconds before throwing a large dishrag over the machine in an attempt to make it stop. It worked.
“My uncle Eliot took me to my first Quidditch game. Puddlemere versus Appleby. You know how the Appleby supporters used to shoot arrows into the air whenever they scored a goal? Some idiot did it that day and it hit me in the eye. I was in St. Mungo’s for the rest of the week. And ever since, I’ve wanted to play professionally.” Ignoring my open mouth, he nodded self-importantly and said, “So yeah, I think we’re there now.”
I wasn’t sure at first whether he was serious. So I asked him if it was true.
“Corinna, you don’t make up details when you’re exchanging stories from childhood.”
“You’re not serious.”
“That’s true. If I were, I’d be caught by now.”
“Escaped murderer convict humour, now? Really?”
“You have a problem with it?”
“When it’s done so badly, yes.”
“You know what I have a problem with?”
“I have a problem with recipe stealing, you thieving imbecile.”
Oliver watched Gemma’s go at baking with increasing pleasure. He was finally warming to the idea that she was simply a culinary idiot. I suspected it had something to do with how she was trying to enchant the mixer to go faster. It wasn’t going so well.
“All right, then. Touching childhood stories.” I didn’t even stop to think about telling it to Oliver. I felt that if he was willing to go there with me and tell me that he suspected his girlfriend of trying to kill him, I could at least tell him this.
“I guess you could say it starts with my grandma. She always had the best food for Christmas and Easter and birthdays and whatnot. One night, I think it was my parents’ anniversary or something, they dropped my brother and me off at her house for the night. And for dessert she had these amazing little linzer cookies, like the ones I made but not in a macaroon, and I begged her to teach me how to do it. So she said she’d teach me in the morning. Except I couldn’t wait for morning, so I got up and went to the kitchen in the middle of the night and saw a house-elf I hadn’t known existed in there, cooking and baking away. It turned out that my grandma didn’t do anything at all and it was poor Dinky doing all the work.”
Oliver winced for the sake of my seven-year-old self.
“Oh, it was all right. Dinky started teaching me after that. She even made that book that Gemma’s using for me, for when I started school. And then my brother–”
“God damn it–Corinna, fix the–holy harp–!”
I whipped around just in time to see the overworked mixer splash lemon-zest-ground-almond-powdered-sugar all over the kitchen. And all over Gemma. And, incidentally, all over myself.
At least it smelled nice.
“Can I ask you a question, Oliver?”
“You missed a spot. It’s in your eyebrow.”
“No, the other–yeah, there you go. What was your question?”
“Can we switch seats?”
“Your real question, Corinna.”
I leaned in, very much aware of how I smelled like lemon and almonds. He leaned in too, a little bemused but still game. He also had to be fairly tired, as it was going on midnight and classes would start again in the morning. Gemma had cleaned up her mess and moved on to mixing egg whites and granulated sugar. She shouldn’t have been able to hear anything over the sound of the mixer and her mutterings, but you never can be too sure with her.
“You don’t honestly still think she’s trying to kill you, do you?”
He considered the question for a moment. Stared into his warm milk and honey. Glanced around the room. Fidgeted in his seat. Very entertaining stuff, as I’m sure you can imagine.
“The idea is becoming less and less probable,” he finally admitted. Looked quite sheepish as he did so, which made me feel gratified. Then he started watching his evidently non-homicidal girlfriend. He looked quite… adorable. Pensive. Loving. Attractive. “Although…”
“What? Although what?”
“Wasn’t she supposed to mix in one tablespoon of sugar at a time into the eggs?”
I turned around, trying to rein in my growing panic.
There was a large canvas bag of powdered sugar. Powdered, not granulated. It was levitating over the great, much-abused mixing bowl. And it looked to be vomiting up the entirety of its contents in the bowl. While the actual mixing of the eggs was going on. Whole eggs, not egg whites. There were no measuring cups. There was no reason to the madness.
“WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?”
“I’m mixing the fucking sugar in with the fucking–”
“Wrong sugar! Wrong eggs! Wrong method!” I flew from the table to the workspace, holding up my hands in front of my face to protect it from the great cloud of powdered sugar gathering over the mixing bowl. “Did you even–”
I didn’t finish my sentence, because in all of this madness, I couldn’t actually see Gemma.
She was hiding behind the largest gas stove I’ve ever seen in my life, and when I approached her, she threw a frying pan at me.
“Are you bloody ins–”
“DUCK AND COVER!”
I tried to heed Oliver’s warning. I tried to dive behind the stove. Then Gemma pushed me out with an enlarged spatula, roaring something about karma and I’ll get you, you heinous something–
And that is how, one January’s night, I was caught in the middle of a powdered sugar explosion.
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